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Waldemar Cordeiro:
Art and Computing


A testimony by Giorgio Moscati about his 

experience and collaboration with Waldemar 

Cordeiro, pioneer of computer art in Brazil.

First published as "Arte e Computação: Um Depoimento", in Cadernos MAC-2, São Paulo, July 1986, pp. 3--17.

Giorgio Moscati, Professor at the Institute 

of Physics, University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Ana Maria Belluzzo, Professor at the Department 

for History of Architecture and Aesthetics of 

Architectural Design, Faculty of Architecture and 

City Planning, University of São Paulo, 

Brazil. Mrs. Belluzo was the curator of the 

exhibition "Waldemar Cordeiro -- an Adventure of 

Reason", which took place at the Museum of 

Contemporary Art -- MAC, University of São 

Paulo, in August, 1996.

Aracy A. Amaral, Ph.D. Professor at the 

Department for History of Architecture and 

Aesthetics of Architectural Design of the 

Faculty of Architecture and City Planning 

University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Mrs. Amaral is the author of several books on 

the history of Brazilian art, including Tarsila: 

Sua Obra e Seu Tempo (São Paulo: Perspectiva,


Coordination: Rejane L. Cintrão, Section for Cultural Promotion, MAC, University of São Paulo. Transcription: Aloisio van Acker.

A.A. São Paulo, July the 7th 1986, Museum of Contemporary Art in São Paulo, Brazil, present Ana Maria Belluzzo, Giorgio Moscati, Rejane Cintrão and Aracy Amaral. The purpose of this meeting is to record Professor Giorgio Moscati's testimony about the period in which he collaborated with Waldemar Cordeiro in the area of computer art.

At first, we will try to give an overview of Professor G. Moscati's background and, to this purpose, I would appreciate if he could say some words about his academic background and the kind of work he had been doing until he met Waldemar Cordeiro.

G.M. I graduated in Engineering from the School of Engineering of the University of São Paulo in l957; and in Physics, in 1959. My main interest was to conduct research in Physics. In 1962, I defended my PhD at the Faculty of Philosophy of the U.S.P. This was the first thesis in Physics ever defended at the U.S.P. which made use of a computer, the IBM 1620, which had recently been bought by the University. I lived in the United States from 1963 to 1966, when I returned to Brazil. By that time, I had already acquired a reasonable experience in computing. Although my formal training was essentially technical, I retained a certain interest in the arts, yet, in a very intuitive, informal way, with no formal training in the field. Around 1968, Professor Mário Schemberg contacted me to tell me about a certain visual artist who was very interested in the possibilities of using computers in his work, and he introduced me to Waldemar Cordeiro. We soon felt we had many ideas in common and engaged in a discussion about the possibilities of using computers in art. At that time, calendars were being made with illustrations produced by computers. But the technique consisted only in the transcription of an image to computers equipped with printers and plotters. Other forms of graphic output were rare and nobody had even heard about PCs; there were only mainframes. In the course of our first meetings, we agreed that, instead of trying to set out a working project right away, we should first get to know each other better and make a general assessment of the possibilities of this technique. So, for months, we had regular meetings, during which he used to speak a great deal about his experience in the artistic field. I could only understand part of what he said: there was a major language gap between us, but I believe our common interest made communication possible. I took him to see the computer of the Department of Nuclear Physics of the U.S.P.: an IBM 360 which had recently been installed. I also took him to some laboratories used for research and teaching at the Institute of Physics. Cordeiro was fascinated by the images on the oscilloscope, which represented information of scientific interest. I also remember having showed him "Lissajous patterns" -- representations of some time functions on the oscilloscope screen. Even at that time, perhaps as a hint of the interest we had in the concept of transformation, I showed him how those patterns could be distorted and their focus altered, resulting in extremely interesting images, if you only took a magnet near the oscilloscope. This is an experience that any person can do by just placing a magnet near a TV set: The image will become totally distorted as the magnet attracts and deviates the electrons, and an interesting image will appear. We used to talk about the possibility of computers in music, and we discussed the experiments that were being conducted abroad, and thought about music, and about art.

A.A. Which experiments you mean?

G.M. Due to the ability of computers to analyze large amounts of data, there had been, since the very beginning, some talk about, for instance, analyzing Bach's works in order to pinpoint any recurrent patterns in them. Or else, people spoke about analyzing works of literature according to, say, the distribution of the length of paragraphs, of the occurrence of certain words, of sentence length, of the use of commas and so on. Every author's personality and style are reflected by certain rhythms. For example, if a written text appears and there is any doubt about who wrote it, you can make an analysis. Possibly, an experienced person can tell authors apart only by reading them, but you can do that on a computer as well. It's possible to see in Bach's works or in the works of other composers that their styles are revealed by the computer. Computers were also starting to use images. What today is called "computer assisted design" (CAD) was taking its first steps at that time. As early as 1972, Cordeiro had already got some films from Boeing, which showed the use of computer images for training pilots or for drawing the cockpit of airplanes. In this case, the computer would simulate the arm movements of the pilot while operating the many controls. That was useful in order to design a cockpit better adapted to the movements of the human body.

A.A.It was a design instrument?

G.M. That's right.

A.A. It's just like a Canadian film about city planning and the design of roads that was presented at the "Symposium on Arteonics:" projections of the trajectory of a road could be made by computer and so on.

G.M. The increase in the capabilities and speed of computers made it possible to calculate the projections of an object, so that we can see how it looks like in perspective. Perspectives can be automatically made by computer. Now you can have a very realistic view of a building; you can even ask how it would look like from a certain angle. So, Cordeiro and I analyzed the many possibilities, both the existing and the future ones. I remember that there was some talk at that time about computer treatment of images. We considered treating TV images just like you do when you adjust a television set, increasing or decreasing contrast, more red, more blue. Basically this is image treatment, on TV, where the electronic signal, which is the intermediary element of an image can easily be modified, just like a photograph: controlling contrast, simple amplifying, amplifying with distortion, anamorphic enlargements, etc., testing many possibilities. >From these experiments with language, we devised the idea of the "ABC" (Beabá), the idea of making the computer write.

A.A. So, was the "ABC" (Beabá) the first project to be developed or were there other ones selected?

G.M. I don't really remember which one was done first, whether the ABC (Beabá), or the Derivatives of an image (Derivadas de uma imagem), but, based on our discussion, we decided to begin with something related to written language, wordplays and so, and then pick up some kind of transformation. We went through some of the more obvious transformations: enlargement, deformation, changing one axis without changing the other and so forth. We also tried deformations like changing contrast and resolution, and there you can see my contribution as a physicist. One of the most important mathematical transformation is called "derivative." Speed, for instance, is a function which is the derivative of space, and acceleration is the derivative of speed. So, you have a function and the derivative function, which is another function, and which gives information correlated to the information given by the primitive function, basically the inclination. If you draw the graph of a function, the derivative of this function will provide the inclination of the curve at each point. When space varies rapidly with time, that means that the speed is high; if it varies slowly, the speed is low. So, we had this idea of applying the derivative, which probably had never been used before. We discussed a little about it. The problem is that you normally do it with a linear function. But in the case we were discussing, we had a bidimensional image, and we realized that, if we used the derivative of it, we would be transforming a shaded image into a contour image. This is due to the fact that wherever the intensity on the original image remains constant, the derivative will be zero, and therefore, white; and wherever the intensity changes abruptly from light to dark, we have a very dark output; and where the original image varies smoothly in a continuum, we have an intermediary intensity. Then, we encountered some computational problems: we had to find a suitable cross-section of the image, and so, we decided to get down to work. Cordeiro should find an image to serve as an input. He finally chose an image from an illustrated placard for the promotion of St. Valentine's Day. He was very intent on the fact that the initial image was figurative.

A.B.That's interesting: I could never imagine that Cordeiro, at the very outset of his work with a new instrument (as the computer surely was at that time), would go right away for a transposition, an unfolding of the photographic image. Instead of this, he could have also used the vast experience he had gathered during Concretism, which relates to the structural sense of image, and, departing from this experience, proceed toward his work with computers. I have some doubts about that: Why figuration, if computer graphic resources were so limited at the time and demanded such a long preparation of the material before it could be fed in? It seems to me that, due to this limitation, it would have been easier to conceive the whole process by means of a transcription of photographs instead. Was he perhaps stuck with the obstacles posed by computer graphic resources at that time? Or else, was he stuck with the requirement of dealing with human content on such a medium and with such an arid instrument right at this early stage? I mean: Was he really intent on working with figurative images? There must be something else at the root of this process that could explain his choice for those images. Was the creation of other kinds of image ever thought of for the purpose of transposition by computer? That's what I'm curious about: Why figuration?

G.M. Among our possibilities, we tested abstract compositions: circles, lines, curves, etc. But that would be too trivial on a computer. Besides, there were some people already working on it. I think what he was really trying to do was to associate something very human with something very technological.

A.A. I get the same feeling from the whole of his work, even in his "The Kiss" (O Beijo), made with an electric mechanism back in 68, right before he started dealing with computers.

G.M. I think what he was really after was to contrast the cold, predictable machine with the human thing. He was concerned with emotional contents. He did wish to explore new media, but retaining the human aspect. At that time, Cordeiro went straight to the point: he didn't want to use an image of his own. Of course, he could have drawn something for that purpose, but what he really wanted -- and I think his technique was already clearly visible here -- was a kind of a transformation mechanism, that is to say: an input, the transformation process, and the output.

A.B. By the time he started his work with computers, he had already been working with photographic images, since about 66. That too must have influenced his choice. He had already worked with photographic images and done "readings" of the information. He used to discuss the informational content of images and the reduction of this informational content. Those were his main concerns.

G.M. In this respect, I believe we both had a common language: the idea of introducing noise -- which he would still use in other works he did in Campinas -- had already been discussed at that time. Once the starting point was established, namely the Derivative (Derivada) and the ABC (Beabá), we proceeded to the actual programming. He chose the image from a St. Valentine's placard and completely digitized it. In other words, he gave me a numerical matrix , which represented the varying intensity of darkness. We decided there should be seven steps of darkness, from white to black. Then, I conducted some experiments on the computer to check the hues of darkness, superposing an "g'g'X" to an "A," and to other characters, so that the image would become very dark. Once we were through with the programming, we digitized the input data, and there we had the output: the first derivative. We hadn't actually planned to go on to the second and third derivatives, but, being an automatic process, it was just a question of giving another command to the computer.... And we would then gradually lose the original identity of the image, after the first, and second, and third derivatives.

A.B.Do you mean this was something which was discovered in the course of the process?

G.M. Yes, after the first operation, we decided to apply the derivative again and again.

A.B. You mean your original idea was to present only the zero order and first order results?

G.M. The idea was "zero order" and "first order." Then, when we already had everything working fine, we decided to proceed to the second and third order. And then, we thought that was it.

A.B. At that time there was an interesting question at issue, namely that of clarifying the limits of image readability. That was markedly present in his work with computers. It seems to me that the experience he gathered in that phase, when he used to discuss it with you, was already pointing towards his next phase.

G.M. What was really interesting was that, instead of going straight to the actual work, we explored possibilities: we thought that dealing with TV and treating the images electronically was too complicated, so, we decided that the easiest way would be the one we finally chose. I believe we scanned a wide range of possibilities.

A.A. 13 years after Cordeiro's passing, how do you see the results of that partnership, considering that not every one of your ideas became reality and also considering the developments of computer art from that time to the present day?

G.M. It was a pleasant experience for me. Today there are much more powerful resources and, looking back at it, I think these results were extremely interesting. I mean, in an underdeveloped country like Brazil, taking on a problem and gaining international recognition. ... Because, you know, Cordeiro naturally knew the whole artistic milieu. I remember that he sent our work to an exhibition of computer art in the UK. After some time, he showed me a critique about the exhibition which had been published in a magazine. It turned out that our work had arrived too late and couldn't be exhibited. But the article praised our work and said that no other works in the exhibition had any meaning; the only one which showed something deeper was ours.

A.B. Wasn't that Jonathan Benton?

G.M. Yes, Benton; and that was nice. By the way, at the very beginning, right after our first work, the American Embassy decided to put up an exhibition of computer art, where they would show the advanced stage of American technology. Once we were through with our work, Cordeiro took it there, proving that we weren't lagging that much behind. Realizing our fundamental role as pioneers of this kind of work in Brazil was very gratifying to me. Cordeiro was full of life and enthusiasm. His death was really a big loss. I can even imagine how much more he would have produced and how he would have enjoyed dealing with color PCs and the like. After the completion of this work, Cordeiro turned his attention to the promotion of it. I took a trip to the UK and introduced him to Rogério Cerqueira Leite. He was very enthusiastic about him and got him a very important commission. When I came back from the UK, in the times of the Arteonics, we started to talk again, resuming ideas about new projects. But we both were too busy, and then he died, so we couldn't carry on.

A.B. What about Cordeiro's experiments with plotters? He has two works: the Pirambu, which is a little house, and the other one is a transcription of Goya's Saturn. How would you assess his contributions concerning the possibilities offered by plotters? He abandoned the technique he had been using, which demanded a huge effort for image preparation before the computer could be programmed. He had a great deal of handicraft work too, that we would very much like to include in this exhibition. What are the implications of this change: working with other possibilities, with computers, which have visual devices, and include more plastic values, scribbles, etc.?

G.M. I realized that Cordeiro had a fascination for colors. He always asked how it was possible to make the input of colors. I said it was possible by means of the usual methods of color printing: You can produce all the colors of the rainbow from only three primary colors. You just have to analyze the intended color into the three primary ones, and then, recompose them back again. But, at that time, we decided we'd better get something concrete instead of trying to be too ambitious. Yes, colors were in his mind since the very beginning. It seems to me that his handicraft work had always been a simulation of an automated kind of work. When you start working with a computational methodology, you end up working in a very formal way: You set the rules in advance and you don't have the artistic freedom for changing things as you go. In all those transcriptions, I think he had to have a tremendous discipline in order to follow the rules set in advance, functioning himself like a computer.

A.B. I don't really agree with you, but I see an interesting point there: When he gets to the manual stage of the work, he makes corrections, adjustments, visual adjustments I'd say, which lie at the level of image sensations, that is, of non-rational, non-mathematical perceptions of image. That's just the moment when he would correct and adjust, so that the output from the automatic process could be made suitable. He used to go through a series of operations of fine-tuning. From his drawings, you can see that he was trying to find a better solution. I mean, he wouldn't only take an image and find the equation, the transposition and the transformations on the computer, he would also have to work through the initial stages of the process, because he didn't have the equipment for it. These first stages were actually carried out by an assistant. But this made it possible to control the resulting image right from this early stage. So you can say that he used this as a means of control, while aiming at the final result. From that point onwards, everything would happen automatically.

A.A. This is perhaps very trivial for you, but I would like to know your reaction to the assumption that images produced as computer transcriptions very much resemble some earlier achievements from the beginning of this century, such as, for instance, images produced by typewriters, which were presented as a novelty in the FON FON magazine, way back in 1915. And even after that, in the early fifties, when I was working as a translator at France Presse, the teletype in Paris used to send Christmas pictures made with teletype characters. Cordeiro's images are also based on the transcription of characters, which form an image by means of a higher or lower frequency of certain selected characters. That's the reason for my question: Wasn't he really a step ahead of other artists who had used more elementary machinery?

G.M. As I see it, if you look at the Derivatives of an Image (Derivadas de Uma Imagem), you can see the zero-order image, the original. I would say -- and I believe Cordeiro would agree with me on that -- that this zero-order image is nothing, it isn't art, it's just a transcription without any meaning. What is meaningful though is the transformation process: the zero-order image and then the derivative, the comparison between both of them; but each one is meaningless in isolation; that's how I see it.

A.B. Would he also see it that way?

G.M. Sure. The mere typing, the printing by a typewriter has no value at all. You're right: we could have started by aiming at the zero-order image and, only afterwards, during the process, strike on the idea for the derivative. But that's not how it worked: the only reason for us to make the zero-order one was to get to the derivative, everything in a single program.

A.A. You mean the typewriter is comparable to the zero-order image?

G.M. That's right.

A.B. But what really interested you was the transformation from the first derivative onwards?

G.M. What really interested us was the possibility of controlling the whole process, getting the seven levels of darkness so that these seven levels could be like neutral elements, to which new units were applied afterwards by means of a transformation process. I think that the reason for producing these elements on typewriters was simply to give a non-handicraft form to the register. Something we both discussed at the time, about which I haven't reached any conclusion (I don't know whether he did.) was this: if you have a shaded image or if you have an image showing only the contours, these two images are used as a kind of language. That means, you've got a blank picture, then you draw a line building the contours of a figure, say, of a human figure, a face for example, and you immediately recognize the person. But if you compare a shaded image to a contour image, they are completely different My question is: What really goes on in our sight and in our brains that makes it possible to recognize a person in reality? Or else, on a photo-style shaded image? Or in a language where only some few lines are shown, giving the contour? It's the outer contour of the head against the background, and the eyes, the mouth, and the nose that makes it possible to recognize a person. And so, considering the whole visual process, it must have evolved from the point of view of survival: the need to recognize a person as a relative, a friend, a son; or else, as an enemy, as a person who can cause you harm or good; a person from whom he should run away, or get closer. From an evolutionary viewpoint, our sight was formed in order to recognize images from nature. It's an important survival factor for getting food, for protection and reproduction. Now, all kinds of symbolic language are not, to my view, similar to the images you find in nature. On the other hand, man is written language. When you learn how to read, and you read all those symbols, and you apparently acquire this ability of interpreting this language symbolism, which resorts to the mechanisms of verbal language. I'm not sure about how recently these things have come about in the evolutionary scale of mankind, or how these contour images bear a meaning for the brain, because they aren't analogous to the ones in nature. So, the Derivatives of an image is actually the transformation from shading to contour and, for some reason that I don't quite understand, the contour conveys a message that is strongly related to the message in the shaded image. So I think that these two kinds of image, which are related to each other through the derivative, still present us with an open question about biological, anthropological, perceptual evolution.

A.A. It seems to me that Impressionism has already dealt with this contour idea, because, among the precursors of Impressionism, there is Manet for example, the last one to use well-defined contours. In Impressionism, form is rendered in its relation to space exactly by way of light. The emphasis was not so much on representation/identification by means of contours. Contour disappears in Impressionism. Even later on, at the beginning of this century, when the Impressionist movement was no longer active, artists like Bonnard or Vuillard would also insist on the lack of contours, rendering form with brush strokes that gave an idea of the image as a whole, but not with any intention as regards representation. Because I think that contour suggests this kind of representation of an object. Impressionism has, in a way, foreshadowed this wish to render the various visually perceptible elements without any resort to the actual delimitation of an area, right? I don't know what you think about it, Ana....

A.B. It seems to me that the question that most closely corresponds to Moscati's comments is the question of silhouette, of light, either backlight or various angles of incidence of light, which are responsible for singling out the body from the non-body. I think man has trained a lot, and captured silhouettes, retaining only a reduced number of the elements perceived from the actual body. On the plan of representations of perceptual experience, such a reduction exists because man experiences situations, even if it takes place only sub-consciously, in which information is reduced by the incidence of light. That means, backlight gives rise to a black shape, a sheer contour; Leonardo was well aware of this. I think that the silhouette is responsible for this peculiar definition. But this is only one aspect. I think that paves the way to the perception of figures, to representation: this sieving of elements that light is able to effect upon a perceiving subject, that is, these reductions.... In Impressionism, it wasn't so much the reductions, but rather the variations of light that mostly interested the impressionists. Photography brings such reductions about, capturing certain moments, which are completely distinctive. That's something which people sometimes lose sight of : the first images ever produced by man -- shadows and representations -- are projections done by means of shadows. Fire, which was already known to primitive men, produced shadows, sun produced shadows. You should never forget the connections between the origin of image and light, and the perception of the silhouette.

A.A. And then, we have Plato's cave....

A.B. It surely is Plato's cave: the projection of the external world on the cave walls, exactly as produced by contrast and shadows.

G.M. Going back to the biological question of perceptual evolution, you notice that, from an evolutionary viewpoint, the perception of movements is very important. Now, what is movement of a figure in relation to a background? If the figure is at rest, you can't quite distinguish it from the background, you can't say what you are looking for and what is not what you are looking for. When I'm looking at you, and I think of a glass moving in front of you, you are the background for the glass; but the couch behind you is the background for you. Movement is very important if you consider the way it happens. You see: Lizards and birds have sudden movements as a means of self-defense. Slow and continuous movements can be easily perceived, whereas a sudden, quick movement -- if you're not focusing it at the very moment when it happens -- you can only catch the image some seconds later, an image that is only slightly altered. As you're unable to keep it in your mind, you don't see the difference. As for other perceptual abilities, such as the ones involved in camouflage, we know that airplanes, ships, and tanks are painted in a way that makes the texture on the inside of the figure look similar to the texture on the background. This makes it more difficult to detect the movement. A clear-cut figure, on the other hand, stands out from the background. Our perceptual ability is also heavily dependent upon the illumination conditions of the figure. If it is an ill lighted figure, we lose the ability to perceive colors. You can only see black and white, without any texture, but, in a way or another, our visual perception keeps the outline of the figure, which matches what you've just said.

A.A. In your discussions with Cordeiro, did he use to speculate about the limits of perception? About the possibilities of the technique?

G.M. Our conversations were based on that. He would say something about the artistic side, and I would contribute with my technical knowledge, or, sometimes, a little bit about the physiology of visual perception. So, we would reach a common language. We had many of those conversations at the time, and I think that these derivatives were an interesting achievement because they touched on a very important question.

A.B. Even today, the "Derivatives of an Image" is still the most intriguing of his works. In the other images, you can't see anything comparable to the leap represented by the formulation of the Derivatives. They look like an extension of the same process, which came to be mastered; that is, the Derivative has the taste of discovery. But what still puzzles me, is your choice for this couple on St. Valentine's placard. Why was this image especially interesting for your purpose? And another question is: Wasn't really TV that Cordeiro had in mind since the very beginning?

G.M. Not really. As I mentioned before, we had considered the possibility of image manipulation on TV: For instance, the derivative, on TV, is an electrical impulse. We considered applying a phase reverser on the TV image, turning everything that was white into black, and vice versa. That's also transformation; in a way, it is just like the echo of a sound. So, by artificially producing phantom-like images on the TV screen, you are in fact creating a kind of an echo of the image.

A.A. I think it would be very interesting if we could avail the opportunity of this exhibition of Cordeiro's works in order to promote a discussion about the connections between problems concerning image and perception on one hand, and, on the other, between image and specifically technical questions concerning the devices, the equipment, and the different forms of record. Because the central matter is clearly that of "Art and Science," that is: How it is possible that Art and Science, making use of modern technology, and of modern means of communication and expression, can create a confluence of them both. I think this exhibition of Cordeiro's works is very important. He was misunderstood in the past, because people weren't patient enough to wait for the development of his process; people were precipitated in their aesthetic assessment of his work. Even today, if you analyze the images he created on the computer, I think their unique value lies in the fact that they constitute a step forward, a conquest of new knowledge, and not so much a finished result. After all, he had been working for three years on a very complicated and totally new process, which hadn't been completely controlled yet. But people insisted on a hasty evaluation of it. Cordeiro's works with computers are important. They show his ability to go deep, to master new techniques, and they exemplify a dozen of other questions that were at issue in those days. But they can't, by any means, be regarded as finished.

G.M. It seems to me that this is the chief question of our times: the conflict between two societies, the technical and the humanistic. There is a great difficulty of communication, for people speak different languages and make no effort to bridge the gap. They have their own preconceived ideas. Technology can be oppressive at times, but it can also do many things. With the emergence of computer technology, society is getting more and more complex. That's why I think it's very important to make use of all possible mechanisms in order to bring both societies together, the technological and the humanistic, so that one doesn't have to fear the other. If we take, for instance, a Stradivarius, we always have to wonder whether it is art or technology that we have. A violin like that cannot be made today; it has an amazing technology.

A.A. Sure. Leonardo da Vinci made many experiments with different painting methods, but the only works of his that resisted to time were the ones in which he used traditional, well-established, reliable paints that had proved durable and that could really last a hundred years. We have lost track of all other experiments which used less durable material. So, there must have been a tremendous technology for the production of paper, glue, paints, and musical instruments, not to mention cinema and TV. And there is also a very interesting technology in the area of advertising. I think there are two kinds of technique: pure technique and technique associated to art. But the mastering of these techniques can sometimes be so complicated, that people either don't use them, or just buy these techniques as a black box, just like a painter that simply buys the paint he is going to use. I think that, historically, the preparation of paints was considered part of the painter's métier. But it is quite different today, isn't it?

A.B. Some artists, I've heard, still devote themselves to making paper and paints, but only as a way to preserve tradition, because their task really begins with industrial paint itself. Formerly artists knew exactly where the pigments came from, that is, they knew all the intricacies of the techniques for paint production.

G.M. How would you compare a modern painter with a painter of 300 years ago? I mean, if someone masters at the same time the technical and the artistic aspects, he cannot separate one from the other: He would adapt what he would like to do to the paints he managed to get, and would try to get the paints needed for representing what he had in mind. There is no such thing today; both things are totally dissociated today.

A.B. There is a complete dissociation in the division of labor, which is characteristic of our technological society: Science and technology have a much stronger influence on the shaping of production processes than art. Artists are concerned rather with the figurative and representative techniques, and not so much with the material support for the representation. They stick to the conceptual techniques, because there is a division of labor.

G.M. What I consider to be of utmost importance in this work is the fact that both the computational and the artistic side evolved together, side by side, so that we were very comfortable about signing this work together, which is not usual in the visual arts.

A.B. But Cordeiro was well aware of the importance of the interconnection between art and technology.

G.M. So, that's why I think that, even if we were two very different persons, we worked very closely together, and I don't feel like an instrument for his ideas. It was a teamwork from the start, signed by two artists, because it actually involved a combination of technique and the intended results. In movies, for instance, this is already commonplace.

A.B. Yes, in movies, the director is the big figure, but there is a lot of cooperation; it is a coauthorship work, but still, with a clear division of labor.

G.M. It's exactly the division of labor that can lead sometimes to a labor hierarchy: The work is signed by one person, and this person is not always the one who had the largest contribution to the work as a whole.

A.B. It's very important that both names were mentioned. I agree that he had it very clearly in mind. I think that Cordeiro attached much value to integration. This wasn't well accepted at that time; he was very much ahead of his time, wasn't he? People tried to make an aesthetic assessment of the results, without being able to realize that what was really important was the program itself, the process as such. I think that a lecture by Moscati would be welcome in order to make these ideas public.

G.M. I think it would be of great use to talk to other people dealing with computer art too.

See also:

"Arteônica: Electronic Art," by Waldemar Cordeiro
"Waldemar Cordeiro: Computer Art Pioneer," by Annateresa Fabris
Waldemar Cordeiro's Oeuvre and Its Context: A Biographical Note," by Eduardo Kac

This article is part of the Leonardo special project "A Radical Intervention: The Brazilian Contribution to the International Electronic Art Movement," guest edited by Eduardo Kac.

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copyright 1997 ISAST | uploaded January 1999